Beleaguered farmers' third poor harvest in a row means British shoppers will rely on imported food - and prices will rise

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Crops from potatoes and peas to cereals are being hit, leading to increased reliance on imported produce

Britain’s farmers are facing the third poor harvest on the run as the coldest March in 50 years plays havoc with crop planting – already significantly down because of last year’s wet weather.

With the cold snap set to continue through April farmers say crops such as potatoes, peas, tomatoes and ornamental flowers have either not been planted, are not growing or are being stunted by the lack of light.

This follows low winter planting levels of cereal crops – a fifth down on last year because of the wet weather. A shortage of spring seed is adding to the problems.

Lower UK crop yields will make UK consumers more reliant on imports and the vagaries of the international markets, which could push up prices. Livestock farmers have been struggling to cope for some time with feed shortages due to poor grass growth in the summer, and continuing snow hampering deliveries.

Farmer’s Weekly columnist David Richardson, who farms near Norwich in Norfolk, said: “Last year our acreage was in the ground by 2 March. This year, with snow falling every day and frosts most nights, there’s no hope of drilling anything. 2013 will be the third poor year in succession.”

Lincolnshire farmer Mark Pettit told the magazine that slug damage and dead patches meant the wheat harvest would be down by 30 per cent – from 15m tonnes to 10m.

The results of the winter planting survey by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board showed that until December in England and Wales wheat planting was down by 25 per cent on the previous year, barley down by 19 per cent and oats down 30 per cent. Overall cereal crops were down by 19 per cent.

The board’s senior analyst Jack Watts said: “Traditionally, following a difficult autumn planting spring barley is the most popular ‘go to’ spring crop. However, the availability of seed could be a limiting factor.”

He added: “It is important to remember that UK grain and oilseed markets operate in a global market. It is critical to monitor the global situation.”

Reports from the National Farmers Union Board for Horticulture and Potatoes, which represents growers, provides a snapshot of the difficulties farmers are facing. Growers of potatoes, peas and flowers for garden centres all saying their planting was late and existing crops were being hampered by the cold and poor light.

The board’s chairman, Guy Poskitt, a Yorkshire farmer who grows root vegetables wrote: “The main concern is the land being very wet and cold. Nothing is growing and the prospect of early crops or high yielding summer crops now looks low. Another year of shortage is highly likely.”

He told The Independent: “We’re about a fortnight to three weeks behind. Nature’s a wonderful thing and it might turn around with a warm summer. But if not we’ll need more imports and that means prices go up.”

Tim Papworth, who farms in Norfolk, added: “We are well behind on planting potatoes and drilling peas which will push the whole season back.”

Soft fruit grower Anthony Snell of the West Midlands said: “Yields and production will inevitably be down, but there will be a consistent programme of production throughout the season to ensure that we have enough soft fruit for every summer event.”

Tomato farmer Paul Simmonds of East Anglia added: “Light is significantly down on levels expected for this time of the year.”

Flower growers are facing huge energy bills as they struggle to keep crops warm and supplied with light.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy as ECB finally wield the axe
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas